lundi 10 novembre 2008

Seychelles 2008 Economic Reform: Are We Living The Same Reality?

Barely a week ago, the 85K population of the Seychelles were released from the anxiety of the awaited and feared program of economic reforms. Since then, a lot has been said and written and, I warrant, still a lot more awaits to be said and written on the announced Reform Package.

There are those who saw in the reform package clear signs that the country was on the verge of economic collapse and had been forced to call on the IMF for economic bail- out.
Some would find not unreasonable cause to see the current national economic dire straits as the cumulative results of misguided policies and short-term planning as the national and political leaders chased one mirage of economic robustness after another and thus steered the country to the edge of the abyss.
Others saw in the reform package, a mere transitory moment of national hardship, on the way to the visionary future of national prosperity, charted under the current incumbent political party that has ruled the destiny of the nation these past 30 years.
Some others yet, strengthened in their self-imposed delusion, see in the reform package, a rallying call for national unity and an opportunity for the sons and daughters of the land to dig deep into their patriotic resolves to forget the past and strive harder to keep the country upright.

It is enough to make one wonder whether we all live in the same country and therefore exposed to the same realities.

Let there be no doubt about both the bitterness and the painful bite of the ’economic reform’ program proposed by the Government. All indications are that the measures announced are simply the tip of the iceberg. As with any self-respecting iceberg, as the exposed tip melts, it is replaced by part of the greater submerged, hidden mass until the whole mess suddenly looses that subtle balance and tips over, causing supremely dangerous conditions for anyone in close orbit. So it shall be with the Seychelles Reform.
The exposed tip is the floating rupee. The submerged mass is the repercussions from escalating costs that will come from market adjustment to its true value that it will be granted by local and international traders.
As it stands, the value of the rupee is already fluctuating wildly. Conflicting local and international reports give its value as at 3rd November at an average 16.97 to the US $ (20:1, 18:1, 15.58:1,14.29:1). This represents a near 100% depreciation translated into a halving of its pre-November 08 purchasing power.

For the average household with non-elastic income, this dramatic reduction of purchasing power will likely be further exacerbated when retailers will start to adjust local commodity prices.
Then will come the crunching moment where families will have to confront the reality of being turned into paupers in so far as their income no longer allows them to be decently fed, clothed and housed.
Whatever money they had, in the bank or under the mattress, will have suddenly lost half its worth in the space of a few days! Those lucky enough to have retained their employment in the public service will likely be bemused by the 17% pay rise against the 50% devaluation and 20% rise in service costs.
I fear for my country. I fear for the welfare of my fellow countrymen. We have stoically endured, over the past 30 years, a plethora of empty promises from our national leaders.
Wasn’t it in the mid 1990s, therefore some 15 years ago, that the erstwhile single party President demanded of us that we make a little sacrifice and tighten our belts while we trudge through the dark tunnel of economic dire straits towards the brilliant light of prosperity that he and his party had prepared for the nation?

What happened since then? Why is it that the nation seems forever condemned to travel the path of illusory and therefore elusive prosperity? Did the former President finally understand that he had been a lousy captain and had not stopped the ship of the nation to drift and finally coast dangerously towards the reefs of economic collapse?
Was this ultimate dawning of the truth the compelling motivation for him to step down and allow his 2IC to handle the emergency manoeuvres to keep the ship of state afloat?
And why does the new man have to tell us today, that the national economic hardship is a “transitory phase for us to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Is there no one with the guts to swim through the bilge water of the state-engineered misinformation to admit that the ship of state is truly in poor condition and will sink unless all hands come on deck to receive precise orders of where to go and with what tools and in what manner to carry out emergency repairs?

Before we even begin to start thinking about pulling “our resources and ideas together and work so as to keep our country standing and strong” we need to be certain that our individual and collective actions will not be another fart in the wind.
We need to know in precise details what went wrong, when and how.
From there, we can make an informed decision about the best course of action to take so as to avoid the same pitfalls of yesterday.
Above all, we must resolve not to heed the advice of those who steered and led us to the edge of the precipice. If they had any sense of decency, they would have at least accepted their failures as leaders and stepped aside to allow others from the ranks to come forward and take the lead.

We had no, or little, say in the decision our leaders took to draw huge financial loans to pave the way to their vision of economic progress and stability. If our understanding of the complexities of directing and running national economic affairs is limited, we know that it shares some basic truths with the more modest family business. Progress is ensured by getting your priorities right. By only investing after a careful and realistic appraisal of your growth and returns potential. By shunning big short-term relief in favour of small sustainable returns to cumulate in long-term benefits.

Somewhere along the line we, as a nation, lost interest in the bigger picture and naively surrendered our destiny in the hands of those who had nice words to lull our vigilance. Time and again, at each election time, we allowed ourselves to be too easily bought by the little honey and big promises handed out.
The country’s economic recovery will be launched. Investor confidence will be boosted. Houses will be built for all, and GDP will be doubled by 2017!!.
Those were big promises that required equally big investment and loans.

Ironically, the real cause of the country taking that final step that led into our current economic abyss, may be the defaulting on the repayment on one such big loan and investment that instead of launching us off, bowled us over and could very well bury us in.

There will be hard times indeed for us now to face.

Some average families will be forced on their knees, as they see their live savings and projects to safeguard the future of their children and their own retirement suddenly wiped away.
When the basic Rs.100K Life Insurance Policy matures after 15 years to a potentially only 50% purchasing value!
When contributions over the past years into the Pension Scheme are wiped down to a fraction of their worth.

Some families will fade away in silent disavowal, with memories of what life used to be and the acid taste of dreams for the children that would now never be fulfilled. Others will seek to understand how they were so wrong and so easily fooled, and in the process, break and tear themselves apart, unwilling to accept the inevitable and will seek to demand from their local leaders, at the least, an explanation that is not another rehearsal in the usual empty rhetoric.
It will be a moment of greatest risk to national peace and cohesion when a man will be faced with the sight of his family forced on its knees, his children going hungry, his house falling in disrepair, apathy pushing him further into depression and an overwhelming sense of powerlessness to stay the descent into despair.
Then there will rise such a wail of protest at being so humiliated, of hopes and dreams nurtured on empty promises, of being reduced to paupers as the inevitable result of poor national vision, planning and leadership.
There will then be no place for national unity. There will then be no place for forgiveness. The time to swallow bitter pills coated in honey will have passed.

The only thing left to do before we start the rebuilding process shall be to force those responsible for our woes, to account!
It will be the time when we as a nation will ask of the current President, to explain why after so many years, his ruling party is, in 2008, still locked in “working to put the national economy on a sound footing,” and how do we make the difference of the “right track “ of today from all the other right tracks of yesterday?

You, who may be a completely lost surfer who accidentally strayed onto this page, don’t read it as an incitement “to riot or create disturbances or to insult others”. Don’t read it as simply another ‘Red-Basher’. It is intended to be a mere small contribution towards national mind awakening to embrace reality.

mercredi 5 novembre 2008

Barrack Obama : A beacon for dreams kept alive

Individually we are, each of us, a minute piece of insignificance in the great swirl of life and cultures. What makes each of us count is that now and then, we become conscious of what we are and are humbled by the enduring intensity of our profound desire to seek and reach out for change.
Today, the world woke up to the reminder that change does come about when the flame of hope is kept alive, when there are among us those who are strong-willed and dedicated enough to not only dream of change but to reach out and make it happen.
Today something stirred in each of us living far beyond the direct and immediate realities of partisan politics of the United States of America, as we received the news that the modern-day wealthiest and militarily most powerful nation went beyond their resignation and cynicism to embrace the change nurtured in the hearts and minds of millions of her children.
To those of us who sought to look deeper at what this new stirring represents, we embrace the comfort and warmth it brought in our renewed hope for a better world. A world where this time-round, we all may rally in spirit by the USA, to confound the forces that seek to tear our civilisations and cultures apart, to reinvigorate our national institutions in the battle for social justice against vested selfish interests and to channel our resolves to halt the deterioration of our living environment and preserve a safer home for future generations.
Barrack Obama is the name borne by the person who embodies this defining and historical moment.
He represents far beyond being head of the USA Democrats’ party ticket and the first non-white to occupy the Chief Executive post of that great country.
He is the beacon that we now know was shining during our long dream and around whom we will gather, each in our separate corners, united in a common purpose to confront the tasks ahead.
Today is our moment. Today is our awakening call. It was long in coming. We were long in dreaming. We are now awake. Our futures do not seem to be as bleak, despite the challenges of global world crises, from wars, financial depression and economic recession to hunger, famine, civil strife and human rights abuse, oppression and global warming.

It is now time to get to work. To nurture the flame of our renewed hope. Yes, We Can!!

mardi 4 novembre 2008

On the Seychelles 2008 Economic Reform Program

I must have missed something in the 4k-word and much-anticipated, Presidential Address on the Seychelles 2008 Reform Program.
Either that or I am much thicker than 2 madrier bodamyen to fully grasp what the much touted and feared reform is all about.
For my own benefit, I need to summarise the Reform Program as outlined by what could pass as an early State of the Nation Address, the President made on the night of 31st October.
Once the usual rhetorical veneer is removed, it would seem that the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Union, some bilateral partners and certain friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have contributed to put together a Reform package for Seychelles, which the president finds as

1.the logical extention and application of his April 2004 Presidential vision for the nation:
To build upon (unspecified) ‘socio-economic acquis’, based on the principle of social justice which puts the people at the centre of development
For the public sector to be at the service of the people and the private sector to be the fountain of economic prosperity
For solid democracy, marked by transparency and good governance, to prevail and spiritual and moral values social well-being to flourish
For every citizen to enjoy the rights and discharge the responsibilities and every able-bodied person to work, enjoy the fruits their labour and contribute to national development
For the (2004) economic difficulties to be overcome and the country integrate fully in the world economy in such a way that it can continue to enjoy a good quality of life.

2. an unfortunate spin-off from the world financial and economic crisis and rising cost of living, which presented Seychelles with challenges requiring new strategies and approaches to modernise the national economy

3. allowing:
Increases of salaries by an average 15-16%; social security (retirement benefits) by around 15%; welfare benefits by 20%; minimum wage by 6.89% (from 14.50 /hr to 15.50/hr);
Reduction of the public service work force by 12.5% ;
Expenditure control by public service departments: slow down or shelve a number of national projects, manage their budgets efficiently and in transparency ,do away with abuse and wastage, promote good governance, transparency and openness; Unspecified means by which 8000 positions in the private sector will be localised;
Introduction of 15% General Service Tax on tenancies and 10% tax on interests earned through savings account .
The floating of the national currency, hoping that this will : open a number of new business opportunities, including possibilities for more exchange bureaux, boost Seychellois’ confidence in the capacity of the country to attract foreign exchange, allow a more equitable distribution of currency throughout the economy and ensure stability
The removal of all foreign exchange controls
The hope for the restructuring of the US$800M national debt
Once and for all, to put order where necessary and doing away with wastage and abuse.
A culture of hard work where :every able-bodied Seychellois works, tolerance is not mistaken for laissez-faire attitudes, privileges are not arrogated as rights, where compassion does not degenerate into abuse.
An opportunity to stop blaming the past, to turn a new leaf and work to modernise Seychelles;
Implementation of a modern taxation system that is uniform and simple;
An audit of the biggest companies operating in Seychelles to allow for points of references to ascertain true and correct declarations of revenue and improve on revenue collection;
The removal of subsidies on certain (unspecified) basic commodities and services; The re-adaptation (by as yet unspecified means) of the education system to better meet emerging needs and respond to the challenges of our economy;
To provide SCRs R25,000 to each primary and secondary school to help the most needy children ;
The reorganisation (by means unspecified) of the national health care services to increase our resources and to better utilise the available infrastructure to enable the public to benefit from a higher standard of care.

That’s it!

The Presidential Address seemed to have been more mired in rhetoric than in heeding its own calls for Good Governance , Accountability and Transparency.
It was not forthcoming on the most vital information regarding the type and modality of fund assistance the country sought from the IMF for the Reform Program to address what the IMF called the “problem of acute balance of payments and public debt crisis, (….) which jeopardizes living standards and economic development. “

Economic Reform and Political Popularity are not good bedfellows. Dishing out money while preaching austerity just does not seem to rhyme.

I fail to see the IMF jumping on the Seychelles 2008 Macroeconomic Reform Program without specific agreements of economic restructuring.
The measures announced, other than floating the rupee, do not seem to add up to a rat’s piss worth on economic restructuring. They could be achieved without the IMF’s involvement.
For the IMF, the World Bank, the EU and the African Development Bank, to come over together in a concerted effort and bail out the country, there must have been specific agreements, with firm, fresh financial input.

Similar agreements most certainly have been reached with the still rather opaque “bilateral partners and certain friendly countries”.

What are these agreements and what do they entail for the country and future generations further down the road?
These are, in my view, the real questions that beg to be answered.

The President would have done better to come clean and closer to transparency by providing facts about the commitments taken rather than attempting to distract the nation from the realities gathering on the national socio-economic horizons.

For example, why even bother to raise the subject of abuse and wastage in the context of the economic reform program? His predecessor proclaimed and ostensibly waged his war on these beastly things nearly every year since 1977!
If 25 years down the road we still have to fight abuse and wastage in the public service, then clearly the conclusion seems to be that the country was not waging the right war and has missed its target completely. Perhaps we failed to understand that abuse and wastage of public assets derive from the culture of “mwan ki la” and cronyism where, at least for the nomenclature, priviledges were indeed synonymous with rights and went far beyond the usual scope of issues such as executives who uses GoS vehicles for private purposes.!!

Why did the president have to go further and insult our intelligence in seeking to dull local public opinion about the quality of grass in other pastures!
“ Poverty is being felt everywhere, including in America and in Europe. Recently, we saw on our television screens people queuing up in Australia for certain commodities. “
His speech-writer must be reminded that poverty in so-called rich countries has been around since before JC did his thing! This neither justifies nor makes it acceptable. Poverty being merely a socio economic reality where, because of the accepted (selected) wisdom that direct national policies, some survive better than others. The rich and the poor…get it?
There really was no need to add colour to the presidential address by throwing out this bone of dubious worth. What are we supposed to say? Oh good!!! We are not so badly off, after all!!??

While on petty issues, does anyone take note that cost of fuel and living in some countries have dropped since the last few months? In France, it went down by at least 17% (SP95 from 1.49€/L in July to 1.24€ in November) and (according to recent news reports) living costs barely nudged beyond 6% in the EU. Some basic commodity costs at retail outlets seem even to be dropping!

Pointing these out is not so much to contradict the President, as to offer a different angle in viewing the same reality resulting from the recent global speculation that both drove fuel costs through the ceiling and partly ushered in the current global confidence crises in international finances, investment and economies.
In my view, what the country needed to hear was more on specific programs that the Government would put in place to facilitate the creation of wealth. If the country is bankrupt or was near to it, a few million faces of Benjamin Franklin, however welcome they may be, will be unlikely to provide us with a long enduring recovery!

Like in any other country, a President, by advisers, professionals and technicians interposés, has his fingers on the national socio economic pulse and realities. Whether or not he is able to correctly interpret what he feels and has the capacity to offer a proper diagnosis and treatment course, remains to be seen.

In the meantime his patient will probably groan and suffer some more and may do better to seek a second opinion!

vendredi 23 mai 2008

Happy Seychelles, paying less for fuel than Europeans! (WHAT?)

Don’t you just love the frequent misinformation published in the Seychelles’ daily newspaper, Nation?

Take this little titbit in today’s contribution under Commodity Trading on the International Market -Fuel price comparison- Seychelles and Europe

Norway and the United Kingdom are major oil producers in Europe, yet the prices of fuel at the pumps in the two countries are higher than in import-dependent Seychelles.

The prices of petrol (bennzin) and diesel in Seychelles now are R11.50 and R12.00 a litre, respectively.

In Norway petrol costs R22.10 a litre. Diesel is R21.68 a litre.

Motorists in the UK are charged R20.12 for a litre of petrol, and R19.10 for a litre of diesel.

Petrol costs the equivalent of R18.92 a litre in Germany. Diesel costs R17.44 a litre.

There! It’s official. In black and white print! The Seychellois can be grateful to be paying less for fuel. Why complain of high costs when even the Europeans are forking out more for the same commodity?

Now, I really do not want just to bash away at the bloke who is earning his keep by churning out such rot! But it really is annoying to find, in this day and age, such cheap propaganda! Classic misinformation inherited from a not-too-distant-and-still-quite-present past.

However useless it might be, the Nation needs a dose of reality.

If one were to make a comparison of what it actually costs in terms of percentage of the purchasing power of the EU countries cited and Seychelles, one would conclude that the Seychellois have every right to be concerned over cost at the pumps!

Let us extrapolate a minimum monthly wage in the three EU countries mentioned on a basis of a 38hr/week, bearing in mind that there are no legal limits for same in Norway and Germany

This minimum wage would be approximately €1761 monthly in Norway, (on the basis of 92K/hr and an exchange rate Kr : € of 0.126), €1053 in the UK (on the basis of £5.52/hr and £ : € rate of 1.25), €1310 in Germany and €166 in Seychelles. (I am using an approximate exchange rate of Rs.15 to the € and a Seychelles’ monthly minimum wage of Rs2500)

The purchasing power of the three EU countries is thus 6 to 10 times that of Seychelles.

For a Norwegian, the cost for a litre of petrol represents 0,08% of his monthly wage.

For the Seychellois, the same litre of fuel is 5,75 times more expensive, at 0,46% of the monthly salary.

In other words, while the Norwegian can purchase over 7L of fuel for an hour’s work, the Seychellois, for his hour of work, can only buy 1,43L of fuel. Five times less! It is four and three times less in comparison to a German and Briton.

Then of course the comparison will not be complete without considering the number of times the Seychellois driver has to fill up as opposed to the EU driver.

Indeed, inter-city / state car usage in the EU (or any other large country with well-developed road infrastructure) is more fuel - efficient over longer travel distances and higher speeds (say 5L/100km at speeds 90-120km/h) and fairly low gradient roads, compared to the less fuel-efficient travel in Seychelles (say 8-11L/100km at below 60kmh) and comparatively steeper gradients. Thus the recurring anguish each time a Seychellois checks in at the filling station.

This is the reality Nation would blissfully ignore and would keep from its readers!

It is also, in my view, the reasonable and bias-free way to make any comparison at all between fuel (or any commodity) costs in EU and Seychelles (and anywhere else for that matter)

The Nation would perhaps do best, in the greater interest of informed journalism, to avoid the pitfalls of cheap brainwashing of which a certain local leader was so fond, when he recurringly and proudly compared Seychelles' GDP to those of some selected poor African nations, and in that comparison, finding cause for some self-congratulations in our country being economically sound and prosperous!

Happy and comfortable delusions! The one-way road to economic inertia and the abyss!

Unless it is all part of a cynical and cunningly devised strategy to maintain social peace as well as control over the populace by systematically dishing out cheap misinformation. Big Brother is Wise. Big Brother knows what he is doing. Trust in Big Brother.

Let Me Out!!!

mardi 15 avril 2008

Can We Give Planet Earth A Chance?

Since her coming into being some 4.5 billion years ago, Planet Earth, we have been told, has met and overcome tasking challenges, each as devastating as the other. Some result from her own physical make up when she either spews out her molten innards or shudders from the unrelenting pressure of her rigid tectonics. Others result from cataclysmic encounters in her ride through the not-so-empty space, around her solitary sun.

For millions of years she endured the transformation that each challenge brought. Her landmasses moved away along her waters, crunched against each other, sank below or rose from beneath her waters. Her solid ground has seen awesome waves rushing in from the sea, rivers come and go, arid desert replace fertile soil, solid ice flows scraping down her mountains to the sea and her rocks worn down by the winds.

Through each of these testing moments, Planet Earth has sustained and nurtured that most fragile existence that came from her very air and soil: Life!

It is a living, breathing creation forever locked in the recurring transitory passage from existence to oblivion and though easily snuffed by any of the little or major upheavals Planet Earth has faced, has found in itself, the formidable ability to adapt and survive, and by virtue of successful evolution, to proliferate.

And yet today, this Life that has endured through millions of years may be at an unprecedented crisis. Having borne uncounted species all clustered together and competing for space, food, and security, Life allowed one species to rise above every other to exert the right of domination and access to her bounties.

Today, this new powerful species has spread to every corner of Planet Earth, and doing so, has, perhaps inadvertently, disturbed the self – regulating density pressures of species’ co-habitation.

The flow of rivers has been modified with structures erected to water new and increasingly large cultivations, provide the necessary energy to feed homes and industries or facilitate transportation.

The very bowels of the earth are gouged and scraped to release minerals and fossil fuel to feed industries and combined to meet the needs of material comforts.

Often driven by an unquenchable cupidity, this species has turned the very lungs of the planet into grazing and cultivation, chewing up the trees into paper, burning them in household cooking stoves, when they are not turned into furniture or consumed in industries’ furnaces and all singly or combined, enhancing the girth and lining of individual and corporate purses.

The guarded secrets of the natural occurring forces of magnetism, electricity and their frequencies were penetrated to offer limitless pathways of discovery and innovation towards eliminating the constraints of distances between isolated groups, facilitating exchanges and more and more engineered to directly lead to what is perceived as improving the immediate quality and comfort of living.

All these were perhaps inevitable in the normal scheme of things which demand that each species take from his environment the substance to ensure his existence and survival. However, the modern-day character of human life and activity has now been shown to be a direct cause of what may very well be an unprecedented challenge to Planet Earth’s capacity to sustain the life she brought forth. Mankind’s households, industries and factories are spewing forth wastes that the soil and atmosphere may no longer be able to sustain.

The accumulation of noxious gases in the atmosphere is apparently directly contributing to amplify the domino ‘green house’ effect. The global modifications in temperature lead to disruptions in air mass circulation and air systems’ regulatory storm cycles, meltdown of polar ice caps, rise in sea-levels, change in climate zones, disruption of rain patterns, spread of desert, etc.

Urbanisation and industrial production are placing considerable pressure on waters and soil.

Their combined pollution is causing irreversible breaks in the eco-system.

Fauna and flora succumb to the unrelenting pressure and are condemned to the now increasing list of extinct species when they are not individually propelled along the peculiar path of evolution and adaptation to disrupt the eco-system, like the spider crabs from the artic, the giant jellyfish of the yellow sea or the taxifolia in the Mediterranean are doing.

Disruptions in climate change disturb weather patterns. Habitats are destroyed from wild fires, inundation of fertile zones or desertification, forcing people no longer able to grow their own food into suburban ghettos in droves.

Safe areas, arable land, water supply are now scarce assets and are covetously guarded. They become prime sources for potential intra-national and international strife and conflict.

Global communications reduce and remove boundaries between peoples. They set and spread the standards for material comforts and excite the innate human drive for immediate needs’ satisfaction. Folks driven from a culture of subsistence are more and more squeezed into suburban ghettos where they are conditioned to aspire to the level of material comforts, often unreachable by normal and socially acceptable living norms. The way out is more often the sad and heavy tribute paid in terms of social and personal tragedies from spiralling crime and violence. They often go hungry while watching people eat from the TV set. Sometimes, the land from which they eked their subsistence are taken up by cash and profit oriented multinationals that produce both the TV and the food featured..

Modern life by Mankind is a complex interplay of forces that go far beyond his perception, understanding and control. The need to control his physical environment and the intricate play of morals that drive and motivate his choices, have often seen his best interest, long term sustainable development, as an integral and inseparable part of the symbiotic eco-system, sacrificed on the altar of short-term goal satisfaction translated into personal cupidity and comfort.

It takes little, well-intended, imagination to recognise the significant part of this cumulated sacrifice in the equation of both global socio-economic developments and the hunger riots now taking place in several countries. We are being made to be the involuntary witness of the destruction of the very fabric of the society modern man has woven, notwithstanding that, with regards to both development or under-development or hunger riots, some individuals or groups may be blowing on the flames of discontent or opportunities for their own short-term political or economic and when taken separately, conflicting agendas. Indeed, the rationale to divert cultivation of food crops to meet the more lucrative needs of industry- these, a by product of the escalating fossil fuel costs (most likely engineered by market speculators), seems to pit the politician against the entrepreneur with the starving populace caught in the middle..

The message seems to be clear. Our life styles have exacted a heavy toll on the fine balance of Planet Earth’s natural forces. The imbalance is probably irreversible in our lifetime and will most likely result, we are told, in a chaotic chain reaction of ever-increasing impact to destroy our very life, before equilibrium is re-asserted, as it surely must have, time and again over millions of years.

When this will happen, maybe Life and Planet Earth will have another chance, perhaps a different choice. One where each species takes from nature only what is required to sustain personal integrity and gives not back more than nature requires. A choice where species will cohabitate without seeking to dominate each other or having to compete for resources. One where each species correctly identifies itself as part of the whole in the complex web of life and recognises that each self-serving disruption in the natural scheme of things will bring along a high cost to pay by future generations.

However remote these concerns may appear when viewed from the limits of our individual and personal everyday horizons, we cannot continue to ignore them.

In a recent moment of strife and conflict, there used to be a rallying call to "Give Peace a Chance"! Are we up to giving Planet Earth a chance ?

mercredi 9 avril 2008

Vers Un Boycott du Beijing 2008?

Un relais international de la flamme Olympique, prélude de la grande rencontre sportive d’été 2008 en Beijing, a vite été accaparé, dés son lancement en Gréce, puis aux étapes Londonienne et Parisienne, par des manifestations et autres revendications politiques au nom des droits et libertés, Tibétaines d’abord, Chinoises et humaines ensuite. Le parcours de la flamme par les autres étapes est d’ores et déjà compromis.

Ce relais qui se voulait celui de l’harmonie et de paix a sombré dans l’ignominie du chaos et le désaveu. Tout un chahut dont le catalyste se prétend être la récente oppression plus que musclée de la Chine, pays hôte des jeux Olympique 2008, des droits et des libertés au Tibet.

D’un coté l’on clame ne plus être en mesure de supporter les abus flagrants des droits et des libertés de l’homme, surtout ceux du Tibétains. La Flamme Olympique s’est donc trouvée, le temps d’un relais organisé par le pays hôte, le symbole de l’oppresseur. Inacceptable dans les capitales de la communauté internationale, bâties sur le respect de la liberté d’expression de l’homme. Pour les besoins de ses politiques à court terme, c’est aussi un bon train à prendre en marche!

De l’autre, l’on prétend que tout cela n’est au mieux, qu’une piètre manigance d’une clique autour du Dalai Lama Tibetain, au pire des actions criminelles des groupes anti-chinoise. De ce point de vue, c’est un peu comme si rien ne s’est passé au Tibet en mars 2008. Il n’y avait pas de manifestations anti-chinoise, l’armée du peuple qui occupe le Tibet depuis 1950, n’a fait aucune intervention sanglante, aucun Tibétain n’est tombé sous les balles pour avoir simplement réclamer ses droits d’être libre chez lui, les 953, chiffre officiel des arrestations, ne sont qu’une petite minorité des fauteurs des troubles, moines inclus. Rien de quoi s’affoler et surtout qui peut toucher au symbole du moment de la gloire de la République Populaire.

Sauf que ce symbole de paix et d’harmonie a prévu son passage en relais sur le toit du monde, l’endroit même ou la Chine exerce son règne d’occupant et d’oppresseur.

La boucle est bouclée. Le sport rejoint la politique. Faut pas trop chercher à les séparer. L’un chasse l’autre quand il s’agit du prestige national, au point qu’ils en sont inséparable.

Je trouve qu’il est un tantinet naïf d’enoblir l’Olympisme. Dés son début, il était un outil entre les mains des habiles hommes politiques, pour canaliser les passions des peuples.

Dans sa version moderne, il s’est trouvé pris en hôtage soit pour la propagation d’une certaine idée de société (Berlin 1936, forte mise à mal par un certain Jesse Owen) soit comme platforme pour internationaliser des revendications autonomiste, (Munich 1972) soit pour dénoncer une certaine hégémonie ou idéologie d’un pays hôte, (Moscou 1980) ou encore en rétorsion (Atlanta 1984).

L’entente, la paix et l’harmonie internationale que représente l’Olympisme restent des valeurs chères à promouvoir. Cependant, tant que l’organisation des rencontres sportives prestigieuses relève du prestige national, la politique s’en mêlera et le sport se trouvera relégué au second rôle.

Le choix du pays hôte se voit ainsi souvent le résultat du marchandage d’influence des pays candidats auprès des pays votants. Ces valeurs qui nous sont chères et à partir desquelles nos démocraties s’épanouissent, deviennent trop souvent une commodité soumise, comme d’autres, aux lois des plus offrants, si elles ne se font pas oublier au fond du placard de nos conscience, au nom de la diplomatie si ce n’est celui d’une politique d’appaisement aux relents d’autruche.

Quand le COI avait attribué les jeux 2008 à la ville de Beijing, en juillet 2001, c’était sur une promesse d’»un monde, un rêve». N’étions nous pas alors tous au courant du bafouement des droits de l’homme en Chine?. Ne l’étions nous pas de la situation au Tibet?. Nous sommes nous posés des questions sur la nature du rêve promis par le pays hôte? Sur qu’il n’y avait aucun remous digne de ce nom pour faire entendre ces voix opprimés sous le joug du communisme triomphant. Pas plus qu’en 1950 au moment de l’occupation du Tibet par la Chine, ni en 1959 et depuis contre l’exile du Dalai Lama en Inde.

Appeler à perturber le rélai international de la flamme Olympique ou aux boycott du Beijing 2008, à quelques semaines des jeux, me semble l’expression d’ une hypocrisie honteuse vis à vis des droits de l’homme en Chine et au Tibet. On en parle, on se crispe la dessus, plus me semble t’il, en résultats des manches à la une des médias occidentaux qui chatouillent nos consciences endormies, que par profonde indignation vis à vis de ce qui se passe en Chine et au Tibet ces dernières cinquante années et plus!

On n’avait pas réagit en 1950 et depuis, contre le déferlement du communisme d’abord en Chine puis au Tibet. Les dirigeants Chinois comptaient-t’ils sur notre passivité?. Tout comme prévoyaient-t’ils la réaction d’une aventure Tibétaine pour assouvir leurs revendications nationalistes et de souveraineté envers Taiwan et l’Arunachal Pradesh?

Le Tibet et le respect des droits humains dans l’empire du milieu on s’en moquait et, soyons honnête, on s’en moque toujours, et on s’en moquerait bien demain, une fois les poussières et nos passions passagères refroidies. La Place Tiananmen, 1989, c’était quoi encore? Un morceau de télé-réalité à vingt heures?

Car, aujourd'hui, on joue le jeux. La Chine est un marché! Les droits de l’homme, s’est une commodité qui se vende et qui s’achète et ce, seulement quand il y en a l’intérêt! Ou quand des médias en mal des manchettes nous les vendent!

Cela dit, peur-être que réagir aujourd'hui c’est mieux que de garder le silence. Peut-être c’est se retrouver et de faire son mea culpa tardif. Tout en sachant que rien, du moins de notre temps, changera au Tibet. Les manifestants gueulent. La Chine oppressive passe!

C’est regrettable qu’un pays comme la Chine, élevée à une certaine grandeur nationale et internationale par son riche passé et cultures, devient victime de sa propre propagande et se laisse sombrer dans la pourriture d’une idéologie qui s’accommode aux besoins du moment pour maintenir aux pouvoir les oppresseurs des peuples Chinois et Tibetains.

Aux Chinois et aux Tibétains de se réveiller un jour et de prendre en main leurs destins. Ils ne doivent pas compter sur l’intérêt et le support soutenu de la communauté internationale.

jeudi 3 avril 2008

Are We Serious About Solid, Non-Recyclable Waste Management for La Digue

The Seychelles' 'Nation' daily of 3rd April 2008 reported on ‘Questions to Government’ of the Seychelles National Assembly (Parliament) session of 2nd April.

In a question put to Government from the Hon. MP for La Digue island, on the matter of the new landfill for the island, the Minister responsible for Environment and Natural Ressources is reported to have revealed that after further study, none is needed.

What of the La Digue island landfill?

My purpose here is neither to argue in favour of landfills nor to dispute the Minister’s view that a new one is not needed for La Digue. I am merely reacting in what I take to be a reasonable manner to the apparent lack of genuine interest in long – term, practical, ecologically sound management of non-recyclable waste, from both the Government of Seychelles and those supposedly elected to safeguard local community needs and interest.

La Digue is a 10km² granitic island some 43km NE of Mahe, the main island of the Republic of Seychelles.

It is the 4th largest island of the country, a lush green hump rising to a few hundred metres with its white sandy beaches and rocky coasts lapped by the varying shades of blue of the Indian Ocean, with a permanent population of around 2500 (roughly 3% of the national population) and an economy largely sustained by tourism.

Life and business on the island is however confined to the low-lying, narrow coastal strip that in some areas can stretch to 1 km wide. This density, coupled with problematic storm water drainage, has been an environment-friendly waste management thorn for the island folks.

Waste is collected and if recyclable, shipped to either Mahe or the nearby Praslin sister island for further management. Non-recyclable waste is deposited in the only landfill on the island. Septic tanks and soak-pits, where these occur, manage sewerage from both private households and commerce.

The question put by the Hon. MP for La Digue island is therefore quite pertinent in that it raises concerns over both long – term, non-recyclable waste management and the every day need to maintain the eco-friendly reputation of the island.

However, given that the Hon MP for La Digue island is a member of the ruling party and also Vice Chairman of the La Digue Development Board, which oversees all infrastructure and other developments on the island, one can safely and reasonably deduce that he could not have been ignorant of the situation with regard to the landfill.

Notwithstanding, the Minister called in to respond to the question, would go unchallenged when, in the same breath, he revealed both that the existing landfill will last a maximum three years and that a new land fill is not needed, despite funds having been secured for it from the European Union.

This appears to me to be a gross lack of genuine concern for long-term, sustainable waste management for the island.

The question to Government had therefore probably more to do with making the MP’s own contribution towards filling in the time of Parliament and an unconvincing pretence that he is useful to the island community, and in so doing, reinforcing the perception of how local politicians of the ruling party seem to earn their keep and keep their seats!

For recall, the Government of the Republic of Seychelles received a donation of €3M (say SCRs.36M) from the European Union, to provide for three landfills, including one for La Digue

Now one must admit that the EU does not go about distributing funds to governments of so-called third world countries, without having first received assurances and guarantees that the funds will be used towards the implementation of projects that have been properly assessed.

It boggles the mind that the Minister for Environment and Natural Ressources would blithely admit to a feasibility study undertaken after the country had pocketed the EU checque, revealing that at least one landfill was not really needed after all!

What does this tell you of the seriousness and professionalism with which some public authorities go about their business?

How seriously can one take the Minister’s stance for sustainable, long-term and ecologically sound development for La Digue, when he recognises that the current solid, non-recyclable waste management will endure for a maximum three years but gives no indication of what will be undertaken from then. Three years, that’s in 2011. The groundwork for whatever infrastructure required to take over from the current solid, non-recyclable waste management set-up, needs to be started now!

The ‘Waste free Seychelles’ program, however successful it may be, deals only with the proper management of recyclable waste. Other wastes continue to be produced at the other end of the daily business of living and commerce and still need to be properly managed if La Digue Island is to remain «the pearl of the Seychelles’ crown».

Sadly, the Hon. MP for La Digue (at least his representative, on the day his question was tabled), is not the only one guilty of this blatant lack of interest. None of his colleagues from both sides of Parliament, found it fit to raise the issue further and challenge the Minister to:

a) Ensure that in future, he arranges for serious study of any infrastructure investment projects to determine its necessity, feasibility and sustainability prior to committing scant ressources or reaching out for international donations

b) Come up with a decent, long-term solid waste management plan for the island.

And, presumably, a pro-rata refund to the European Union of the original donation will be too much to ask for!

mardi 11 mars 2008

Wind of Change and The Seychelles Police

The declarations made by the Seychelles Police Commissioner on Friday 7th March before 65 participants of a two-week workshop on human rights and before “facilitators from the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO), the Ombudsman, and senior officials from the police force and the legal profession” and as reported in the Nation of 11th March were startling, at least to me.
· It is only through proper practices in law enforcement that the police force will enhance the
eradication of corruption
· It is sad that the impact of the good work of devoted police officers is lost due to criminal
elements who do not have the public interest at heart
· ( The Police has ) to focus (our) efforts on the fight against corruption equally as we direct
attention on abuses of human rights. They are both detrimental to good governance

Were these borne from his personal and careful appraisal of Policing and his role in ensuring that it is correctly done? Or were they another series of declaration made from reading a speech prepared by someone else, with the aim of uttering the right –sounding phrases and exhorting the right sentiments in interested listeners?

Enhancing the efficiency, professionalism and performance of the Police will not be achieved on the sole declaration of good intentions from good –sounding speeches. It requires a solid knowledge and respect of Laws, Rights, Freedoms, Policing, Procedures and all the other Codes and Good Practices of Professional Policing.

Often enough, we have found this sadly lacking in the local Police Force, from the Police Commissioner himself, down. The Judge Riley report of January 2008 made that clear enough.
In denouncing “criminal elements who do not have the public interest at heart” and who therefore damage the “good work of other devoted police officers”, the Police Commissioner could not have missed the parallel with his own reported inadequacies and incompetence, that combined, contribute to giving the local Police a bad name.

That the Police Commissioner made the right –sounding declarations against corruption and human right abuses as “detrimental to good governance” is remarkable enough! However, one cannot help but be suspicious before the wonderful implications of this declaration.
The implications seem to me to be more than the recognition and acceptance that corruption and abuse of human rights are endemic in the Police Force.

While this is quite remarkable in itself, the declaration also goes further to recognise that eliminating corruption and abuse of human rights “is a basic requirement for peace, security, and sustainable political and socio-economic development”. That’s the bit where I got suspicious.
Things cannot be what they sound to be when a Police Commissioner start talking about stuffs that go far beyond Policing, into the preserves of national policy strategists. To me therefore, the words uttered were bereft of sincerity. They were merely the usual empty –sounding speeches delivered to fill in a moment of formal protocol before a no-risk audience.

But could I be wrong? Of course! There are as many interpretations of what a Public Officer says as there are persons who hear it. In my case, I may have missed the point that the Police Commissioner may just have managed to read the writing on the wall. A writing which seems to be spelling out the end of authority without responsibility so dear to those in office who are yet to be confronted with the need to be accountable for the actions they undertake during public office tenure.
The wind of change is wafting over the land and one can take heart that change will come in our time. The change to accountability, transparency and respect of human rights, on which the President himself dwelt lengthily in his 2008 State of the Nation Address.

If the Police Commissioner missed those messages and was locked into the usual lip-service declarations, then it was a blessing for us all that the Nation carried his statements. We may one day have to repeat his words and invite him to account for himself

vendredi 7 mars 2008

Dare We Hope For Judicial Reform In Seychelles?

The Nation of 07th March carried the article of Mr Barry Galvin, State Solicitor from the Republic of Ireland, having been appointed by the President to conduct a review of Seychelles’ criminal justice system.


A hum started deep down inside me and I was hard pressed to squash it before it burst into song!

Maybe this time round, Seychelles truly has a chance to move forward. Maybe this time, the new, democratically elected President of the country is seriously committed to break with the past culture of making empty placatory promises!

Law-breakers all over the world would reasonably always find cause to pick a bone with the courts, considering that none of them in prison is guilty of the crime for which they have been convicted. In our land, it would be no different.

But this is not why, for so long, we have regarded our Justice system with suspicion. This suspicion is over the whole Justice system, not only about the criminal justice system.

It is because those appointed to administer justice were, in our eyes, too often pliant to the undeclared wishes of those behind their appointments! To the point that for the average man on the street, in matters of respect of personal rights and freedoms, the courts and the judges were often seen as mere extentions of the ruling party.

And I am not even thinking about land acquisition in the public interest, nor of arrests and detention without due process so characteristic of the years 1977 to late 1980s. Those were years were the legislature gave Ministers legal instruments to do as they saw fit. Judges and courts were thus incapable to correct the perceived injustices.

I am thinking of those years since restoration of multi-party democracy from 1991. We were ostensibly a democracy with a new Constitution in which we had made it clear that the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary were independent of, and were to check and balance, each other.

Except that the Head of the Executive of the 3rd Republic was a carry –over from the days of single party dictatorship who, while directing the affairs of state, far from addressing the festering cancer in our justice system, blithely contributed to worsening it.

Driving the credibility of government and the judicial system into the ground is probably never close to any political leader’s intent. It more likely arises as the ineluctable outcome of yielding unchallenged power and considering oneself unaccountable. It becomes then a simple step to gather the Legislature and the Judiciary into one’s fist and squeeze or cajole as necessary to maintain one’s hold over the nation

The Head of our Judiciary was, until his recent resignation, the very same who, in his own words uttered at a mid 1990s regional conference held at the Plantation Club on good governance, found no problem with administering the oath of Office of the Presidency during the Single Party Dictatorship period. (to which some delegates quietly snickered ‘ another monkey enjoying nuts thrown at him’. A local participant, now a prominent local politician of the ruling party, quietly laughed and passed on the remark to those who had not heard)

The very same who consistently ruled against petitions and grievances brought before the courts by the political opposition and went so far as to express doubts that the political opposition will ever form a ruling government.

The very same who headed courts which awarded damages to petitions from the ruling clique who found local newspaper articles that exposed their disregard for the law, abuse of authority and priviledge of office, corruption, cronyism, trampling on our constitutional rights and freedoms, etc, as ‘frivolous, offensive, libelous and defamatory’.

The very same who remained silent before the pervading intrusion of the ruling party in the administration of Justice, including perverting the Constitutional Appointments Authority, which until recently and possibly after repeated public denunciation by the political opposition, was chaired by a member of the ruling party’s central committee, also a lawyer who in that latter capacity, thus appeared before Judges he had recommended for appointment.

The very same who remained silent when the head Judge of the Appeals Court resigned in what was strongly suspected as resulting from his vocal stance against unacceptable incursion by the Executive in the Judiciary.

The Country has for a long time been perplexed over criminal activities that remained unchecked. Drug trafficking is a scourge, and drug abuse a plague, in our land. Yet local law enforcement merely succeeds in catching the odd low – level dealers and illicit drug user or occasionally destroying the odd cannabis plantation in some remote part of the island only to see another sprouting up somewhere else.

The barons, who surely must be behind the local drug scene, remain untouched, unknown, and one would dare suggest, not unprotected.

It has happened that law breakers, particularly those who are related to or have connections with the ruling clique, often have criminal cases against them thrown out of court because damning evidence against them disappeared while in police custody (Though it can be reasonably argued that these instances were more the result of the peculiar conditions of appointment of individual police or other officers of the local law enforcement system, and their personal disregard for the law and procedure codes in favour of some immediate and direct pecuniary benefits. That's corruption which pervades law enforcement systems all over the world).

In many ways therefore, and not all of them directly attributable to the person of the Chief Justice, our justice system was seen as flawed and our courts and judges did not always show that they were truly concerned with only providing justice fairly to all. In effect, justice, that inseparable arm of law enforcement, had been rendered, after long being perceived, as ineffective and inefficient.

The effectiveness of any judicial reform will however depend largely on the merit of the assessor. Who he is and how fairly he was chosen, may be indicators to how correctly the assessment will be carried out.

It will also depend on the depth and pragmatism of his findings and recommendations and the strength of the president’s commitment to deliver on his promise for reforms.

It is my hope that in three months’ time, rather than sigh at the Galvin Report, which will join the Rilley report, I can burst into song.

mercredi 13 février 2008


(A brief reaction to the Seychelles’ 2008 State of the Nation Address)

Allow me a minute to take up the three words from the President's State of the Nation address of 12th February 2008: ‘Realistic, Resilient and Responsible’

The President gave his appreciation of these words. I suggest mine.

To be realistic is also to have the physical faculty to look life in the eye without any mental or artificial external filters and recognise it for what it truly is.

Resilience comes from spitting at it in the eye.

Responsibility is to remain resilient when life spits back at you and note it down as another reality to live with.

In Seychelles, we are truly a resilient lot.

For the past three generations, we have endured the difficulties of comparably high living costs culminating in the spectacularly dramatic (average) 50% increase of January 2008.

For the past three generations our reality has been the escalating costs which remained an irksome and often painful thorn in our in everyday life, along with the other political, social and economic iniquities brought upon us by the SPPF Socialist Government, which the President today heads.

For the past three generations, we have often anticipated the State of the Nation address by the one elected in the post to chart and give direction to the course of the nation, for relief from the accumulated burdensome reality.

For the past three generations, we have invariably been disillusioned and assumed our responsibility to be remain resilient.

Since the 1980s, the President of the 2nd Republic told us every year, to endure sacrifices while the economic course he was charting bear fruits.

In the 1990s, he told us to ‘Ser Sang’!. The fruits were taking longer to ripen!

Since the dawn of the new millennium we were again invited to be patient, the end of all our sacrifices was at hand. The new President from April 2004 took up the chorus, enjoining us to keep the faith.

In 2008, we are invited to remain resilient and face the new challenges.

At each State of the Nation Address, we are informed that the economy is doing well. That investor confidence is good. That visitor arrivals are good and increasing. That more foreign exchange is entering the system. That local entrepreneurship is increasing. That fish and related exports are increasing, etc.

Invariably, the Head of State always fails to see beyond the stale statistics of his advisors and policy makers, to the reality of our daily suffering.

How do these increases percolate down to the average person and translate into a direct impact on improving living conditions?

What is the worth of increasing investor confidence, visitor arrivals, foreign exchange, etc, if after three generations, in February 2008, in the words of the Head of State himself, there are Seychellois families who, despite working very hard, suffer, find themselves in difficulty to cope with household expenses and struggle just to make ends meet?

It is a testimony to our resilience that we have never crumpled, continuing to believe in ourselves, rather than in the empty promises and the blighted vision of the SPPF Government.

The promises of the Government are empty in so far that they have been chorused over the years with little direct impact on slowing escalating cost of living.

The vision of the Government is blighted in so far as it consistently seeks to place the blame for our local dramatic economic burden on others, and now, on the global markets.

It is true that the global market invariably impacts on each and every nation. The current escalating fuel costs are driving up other costs in countries everywhere.

In Seychelles, however, the scale of the recent increases cannot entirely be explained by the global fuel increases alone.

In the EU, lead - free fuel currently sells at €1.33 to €1.42/L at the pump, representing a 20%-30% rise from February 2007. Over the same period, overall commodity price increases have not been above 10%.

In Seychelles, lead –free fuel increased by over 80% from around Rs.6.50 in 2006 to reach Rs.12.00 at end 2007. In January 2008, living costs in our country shot up by an estimated average of 45% to 60%!

It serves little purpose, other than that of cheap misinformation, to compare our local costs with those of other countries, in particular of EU, where the purchasing power is four times that of the average Seychellois.

If, as the Head of State contends, it is true that there is no “short-term solution, nor a magic wand that can resolve the situation”, it is also true that the general local cost of living cannot be entirely dictated by world economic trends beyond our control.

The Head of State gives an inkling of what could be the real cause of our problem when he admits that, true to socialist doctrines, government had for many years, “adopted an approach of absorbing the increasing cost of commodities through subsidies”. This apparently “in view of limited economic growth, and also to help those who were unemployed, or who were attached to specific employment support schemes”.

That, in my view, is where part of the real problem lies.

Since 1977, the SPPF government embarked on a wholesale state welfare program that some saw as more self-serving than a call for popular solidarity. It sought to be and became popular, and to a large extent it remains and seeks to remain so, with abolition of revenue taxation, free health, free education, heavily subsidised and not-low-cost housing, etc. making it political suicide for revision of these policies which have been and are driving the country into a fiscal, monetary and budget policy grave.

The Head of State recognises that “we can no longer sustain such an approach”. His government was apparently confident that it “could make gradual adjustments to subsidies until the country reached equilibrium”.

The unfortunate reality is that the SPPF made the wrong decision at the wrong time.

The Government apparently did not project the immediate and middle-term impact its decision would have on local socio economic conditions! Or if it did, it must have failed to fully appreciate the impact in the other context of globalisation. It smacks of gross economic incompetence not to have foreseen global market pushing up commodity prices and that our local fuel bill would rise by over 300% to erode “the benefits that were gained through improvements in the rest of the economy” to the tune of US$42M.

But can we truthfully equate the heavy burden of increased living costs to solely increased fuel cost?. If adjustments to subsidisation have been gobbled up by increased fuel costs, how fair is it to suggest that subsidisation of commodity costs for 2007-2008 is only worth US$42M?

This amount represents some 25% of the national budget and converts to roughly the amount of excess expenditures under the 2007 budget.

It all seems to point at a lack of foresight, blighted vision on the part of the government with their eagerness to shift the blame onto somebody else and the now well-rehearsed symptomatic strategy of damage control.

What consideration was given to the extra financial burden on “neediest families” when the Government took the decision to hike utility rates by over 60% in January 08.?

In so far as “needy families” are the ones who spend under 300 units of Electricity (translated for the purpose of argument into Kwh), they would have paid Rs207.00 last year and now have to pay Rs138.00 or 66% more for the same amount of energy used.

These are the very same families whom the Head of State now wants to target for relief in paying their utility bills. However, they will still have to fork out Rs.45.00 more (or 28%) without having changed their energy use from last year. Indeed, a Rs 264 utility bill corresponds to around 230Kwh under the new rate of Rs.1.15/Kwh. In 2007, that same energy consumption would have translated into a Rs.158.00 bill. In my book, that’s pathetic damage control.

After all is said and done, maybe there is at last, in the 2008 State of the Nation address, a ray of hope that the barriers thrown up before us over the last 30 years, that have suffocated growth and directly contributed to our current economic straits, will be dismantled.

They were the barriers of state domination in all aspects of social and economic life from interference with the judiciary, disregard and disrespect of human rights, mandatory security clearance for all public service employment (from the mundane, low level no-security risk handyman to the senior executive, or other highly sensitive and high profile posts, and even movement within the public service,) to corruption, rampant cronyism, despotism, that inculcated a mind frame in the nation: Government is Wise. Opposition is useless. Let Government deal with it.

This is the only real message I took from the 2008 State of the Nation Address. I long for the President's words to take form and substance.

When the barriers will have been truly torn down, when the Chief Justice will be truly independently appointed (however unrealistic this may be under the current CAA) when the Police will be truly a professional body and not perceived as a mere extention of the SPPF hierarchy, when any Seychellois secures a job or professional advancement in public and private service on the sole merit of certified skills and competence, when entrepreneurship will be determined by business acumen rather than by political favours (or victimisation), when the SBC will cease to be a propaganda machine, when respect for human rights, despite being written on the pages of the Constitution, will cease being mere words uttered falsely, then maybe, the country will start breathing again. Then, maybe, we can truly start being realistic and look to the future, our resilience strengthening in the hope, that this time, the promised end of sacrifices will be for real.!!

Would that be part explanation for the absence, at the 2008 State of the Nation Address, of the architect of our current woes ?

lundi 7 janvier 2008

On Water Saving Measures and Rising Water Bills in Seychelles

The Nation of 7-1-08 had this article about the Public Utilities Corporation (PUC) stepping up its advice to consumers on realistic and simple methods by which they can conserve water and electricity and therefore save on their bills. This, the article stated, in the wake of the recent revision on water and electricity tariffs forced onto PUC by increased operation costs driven up by the ever rising cost of petroleum on the world market.

The PUC advice, the article states, will hopefully to be available to the public by the end of the week in new leaflets being printed. And to whet our appetites, the Nation doled out a few ‘simple water saving tips’ which included the classic replacement / repairs of leaking taps, toilet flushing systems, etc.

In these days of global concern over renewable natural ressources, everyone is quite obliged to rethink everyday practices that would contribute towards a more sensible use of these scarce resources. It is commendable of the PUC to go that little extra distance in seeking to help its clients reduce water wastage. However, for those of us who really want to do our bit to save on water (the planet will follow in quick order) we would do better to just ignore the PUC and keep on with what common sense dictates.

Indeed, how seriously can one take a public utility agency which suggests that a faulty toilet flushing system can waste water up to 9L/min adding up to 32Kl/month? Or a running tap during teeth-brushing can waste water at 11L/min and goes no further than that?

Firstly, the math is all wrong! On the basis of the faulty toilet flushing system and the bathroom tap running unchecked, 9L/min equals to 540L/hr, equals 12.96Kl/day, equals 90.72Kl/week; equals 362.88Kl/month!

11L/min equals 660L/Hr, equals 15.84Kl/day, equals 110.88Kl/week, equals 443.52Kl/month!

Secondly, it smacks of poor advice on water saving measures to suggest repairs of installations that are fundamentally the way opposite.

A household tap gushing out at 11L/minute is an acknowledgement that the concept for internal domestic plumbing is flawed. Water flow rate for water cisterns, internal taps and showerheads need not deliver more than 6L/min at full flow without compromising on efficiency

If that toilet flush drains at 9L/min, it is faulty in concept, gurgling out water at near double what a toilet flushing should do. It needs to be replaced. Modern dual flush runs at average 3-6L/flush.!

And while we are at it, let’s have reducers and flow restrictors on those other interior water outlets where pressure can be enhanced without increasing the volume of water flow. Sounds simple and practical?

The way I see it, the trouble with the PUC seems to lie in trying to place the blame for the new unsavoury monthly utility bill on customers. They are careless and wasteful, right?

Or on that nasty world market thingy, with its “ever rising cost of petroleum”(however true). As for ol’ PUC, it had little other option than to hike up its rates on water and electricity tariffs ( it was forced to do , right?, Somebody, maybe Government, was bending and twisting its arm to do so in order to meet increased operation costs, right?)

It was certainly commercial sense to hike up the utility rates. Which means that at some stage, what clinched the decision, was more the concern on how to balance the books rather than the plight of the already heavily overburdened Seychellois household.

This is all the more galling in the land of free health, free education, heavily subsidised housing and other generous social welfare programs. We all need water to drink, wash, clean at more or less the same rate, irregardless of social or economic status. The PUC has only made it harder for those of the lower income group. That’s the other reality besides increasing international prices.

The PUC would not really be blamed for having decided the way it did, if only it could now be brave enough and admit it rather than try to suggest that it’s all the fault of the international market.

Now that the rates have been increased, it should try not to add insult to injury by taking the customers for morons in suggesting ludicrous water wastage figures that, if avoided, would “make a world of difference on (our) electricity and water bill at the end of each month “

We may not be able to do without the PUC. We certainly can do without its advice!